January 6, 2023
JAKARTA – The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal and upheld the death sentence handed down to an Islamic boarding school teacher who had raped 13 of his students, bringing an end to a case that had drawn national attention to sexual abuse in the country’s religious boarding schools.
Herry Wirawan, who taught at his own Islamic boarding school in West Java, had previously been found guilty of raping the female students between 2016 and 2021, all of whom were minors at the time, and impregnating at least eight of them.
For his crimes, the Bandung High Court ruled in April last year that Herry be sentenced to death, after prosecutors previously filed an appeal against a lower court’s sentence of life imprisonment.
Herry filed an appeal in August to the Supreme Court in the hope of overturning the Bandung High Court’s ruling, but the country’s highest judicial body rejected Herry’s appeal.
The Supreme Court’s ruling was made in December by a bench led by Chief Justice Sri Murwahyuni.
The Supreme Court also upheld the Bandung High Court’s order for Herry to pay more than Rp 300 million (US$20,909) in restitution to the victims, and for his assets to be seized and auctioned off, the proceeds of which are to be used to provide financial support for his victims and their children.
Herry’s abuse came to light when the family of a female student reported Herry to the police in late 2021, which went on to spark national outrage.
However, Herry’s sentence of capital punishment has also drawn mixed responses.
Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Bintang Puspayoga welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding Herry’s death sentence, saying that it would help to show the country’s zero tolerance for sexual abuse.
“I reiterate, there can be no toleration of cases of sexual violence and whoever the perpetrators are, the law must be upheld. There is zero tolerance for perpetrators of sexual violence in any form,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.
The National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), however, questioned the effectiveness of the death sentence, particularly whether it would have a deterrent effect on would-be criminals.
“Since there have been other death penalty [sentences] imposed on convicts before Herry Wirawan, [his case] means that the death penalty does not have a deterrent effect,” Komnas Perempuan commissioner Siti Aminah Tardi said on Wednesday, as quoted by Kompas.
Siti Aminah urged the public to focus less on Herry’s death sentence and more on the recovery of his victims. (dre)